The winery was founded by the Englishman Dr. Christopher Rawson Penfold (1811-1870) and his wife Mary in 1844 near Adelaide in the Barossa Valley (South Australia). It is one of the oldest Australian wineries. The doctor had studied medicine in London and was convinced of the positive medical effects of wine. Using vines brought from France, he planted the first vineyard in Magill near his stone house known as "The Grange" (small estate).
For more than a hundred years, the company produced mainly sherry and port style fortified wines and brandies, most of which were exported to England. After the death of the founder, his wife Mary took over the management of the company. She was succeeded in 1884 by her daughter Georgina and her husband Thomas Hyland. By 1881, the annual production was already around 500,000 litres.
The family business was converted into a company in 1921. The vineyards were extensively expanded. During the Second World War (1939-1945), more and more spritzer wines in sherry and port style were produced again. After the war, Jeffrey Penfold Hyland took over the management of the company and switched production back to table wines. The family remained at the head of the company in 1976. In that year Penfolds was taken over by the Tooth & Co brewery, which then sold it to Adelaide Steamship in 1982. They eventually sold all their vineyards to Multi Southcorp in 1990. This was then taken over in 2005 by beverage multinational Foster's, which in May 2011 outsourced all wine activities to a separate company called Treasury Wine Estates, which now includes the former Penfolds Group.
In addition to the parent company in Magill, a second winery is operated in Nuriootpa in the Barossa Valley. The grapes are purchased from over 200 contract winegrowers with a total vineyard area of 500 hectares. These are located in numerous Australian wine-growing regions such as the Barossa Valley, Clare Valley, Coonawarra, McLaren Vale, Hunter Valley and Riverina. 1.5 million bottles of wine are produced annually. The famous wine pioneer Max Schubert (1915-1994) became chief winemaker after the Second World War. He travelled to Spain in 1950 to learn about sherry production and also visited Bordeaux. From there he took home knowledge about new fermentation techniques and barrique maturation in order to implement it there. In 1951 he created the famous "Penfolds Grange". The red wine known as "Grange" or also as "Bin 95" is considered one of the best and most expensive wines in the world and is called the "Premier Cru of the Southern Hemisphere". Until 1989 it was called "Penfolds Grange Hermitage", the addition was omitted due to EU regulations.
It is cuvéetiert from a high portion of Shiraz from different situations with something Cabernet Sauvignon from a high mostly over 90% lying portion of Shiraz. Some vintages are also produced as a single variety (e.g. 1951, 1952, 1963, 1999, 2000 and 2001). Aging takes place for 18 months in small American oak barrels, and is only marketed after at least three years of bottle aging. At an auction in Melbourne in 2004, a bottle of the first vintage 1951 was sold for AU$ 52,211 ($ 35,767). The original 1,800 bottles were not sold at that time, but were given away or used for testing. Today there are only a few left.
From the early 1960s onwards, Max Schubert developed an ingenious system of consecutively numbered barrels, so-called bins (Bin = containers), for the storage/maturation of wines. The Penfolds product range includes the famous Grange as well as a number of other red wines such as Bin 707, RWT (Red Winemaking Trial), St. Henri and Magill Estate. The Bin 389 is also often referred to as the "Baby Grange" because it matures in barrels previously used for the Grange. In 1998 the first white "Grange" was produced under the name "Penfolds Yattarna Chardonnay". Furthermore, small quantities of liqueurs are also produced. The winery is one of the few to carry out the special service of a new corking, in which the best products or vintages are sensory tested after 25 years at the earliest, if necessary filled up with original wine of this vintage and newly corked. This is called "Penfolds Wine Clinics".
A very special project of Penfolds is "Ampoule", a wine from the vineyard "Kalimna" in the Moppa area of the Barossa Valley. At the edge of this vineyard is the ten acres (4 ha) "Block 42", which is planted with Cabernet Sauvignon vines, planted in the mid 1880s, which are true to their roots and have been spared from phylloxera. The yields from these ancient vines are extremely low. The grapes have an exceptional aroma and are normally used in the "Bin 707" wine. Only in very special years is a truly exquisite red wine made from them in very small quantities, which has so far only been done in the years 1953, 1961, 1963, 1964, 1996 and 2004. From the 2004 vintage, only 12 units were filled in very special containers with a bottle volume of 0.75 litres.
The wine from vines that were 120 years old at the time is contained in a mouth-blown, cylindrical glass vial. This vial in turn is fixed in an elongated, conically shaped glass sculpture in the form of a plumb bob, which is housed in a container made of jarrah wood (one of the most precious woods of all). The 12 containers were handcrafted by four renowned Australian artists and designers. The production can be seen on YouTube in a video (click to view). In August 2012, a unit like this changed hands for an incredible € 160,000. The buyer was a regular guest of the Austrian five-star hotel "Jagdhof" in Neustift (Stubaital, Tyrol). The sale was arranged by the head sommelier of the hotel Matthias Tanzer. This extraordinary crescendo is one of the absolutely most expensive wines in the world.